Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thoughts on Spygate

Not since Canseco's publishing of Juiced has any professional sport been engulfed by a single story as the NFL, the Patriots and the infamous Spygate "scandal".

Information on the NFL's specific rules on videotaping is elusive (at least I haven't been able to find it in black and white anywhere), but through the various newstories and sportcasters I've been able to ascertain the following:
  • apparently, "legal" video taping did not have a specific location before 2006
  • In 2007, the NFL reiterated this new "location" through a memo distributed by Goodell
So we have a practice that was widespread - videotaping opposing teams from anywhere - before 2006, that was limited to "boxes" (those rooms with three walls and a glass window) in 2006, and forcefully enforced in 2007.

The brunt of this "scandal" has been that the Pats cheated by videotaping. Well, according to the league's rules, not exactly. Merriam Webster dictionary defines cheat: 1 a: to practice fraud or trickery b: to violate rules dishonestly

If we take the latter definition, they were certainly not being dishonest about it; if we take the former definition....well that's where things start getting iffy. See, the Pats broke a rule yes. But they did not break that rule because they were videotaping - and this is the fact that escapes every single newscast out there - they broke the rules because of from where they were videotaping not because they were taping. As "maverick" commenting at the Boston Herald apology aptly states:
'Spygate' needs to be renamed 'CameraHunt'. This entire affair is far closer to a Witch Hunt than it is about uncovering a secret spy ring. Taping is legal in a dozen other locations, in front of millions of people, just not from the sideline. Jimmy Johnson and other coaches have admitted to the exact same thing, and the Jets were caught doing sideline video, and the Dolphins were caught catching audio line calls.
Watch any football game and you'll see the coaches have pictures of the previous plays. Where do you think those come from? You will see coaching throwing a red flag to challenge a play. How do you think they figure it out if not by watching film from the "legal"location? So the filming or videotaping is not the issue here, it's the where.

With today's camera technology, could they have really gained an advantage by doing if from the sidelines? Not according to the NFL network's evaluation of the just released video tapes by Walsh. We do get nice close-ups of the cheerleaders sometimes.

Did Belichick break a rule? Yes he did. Did he deserved to be punished? Yes he did. Should Goodell have destroyed the evidence? No; we wouldn't be here if he hadn't. Does this amount to tantamount cheating? Hell no. Again, it seems it was an accepted practice by the league up until 2006.

As I sit here and torture myself watching Arlen Specter's press conference - the man I believe wants to singlehandedly destroy the NFL as a favor to Comcast - I want to see the coaches and owners in the NFL rank and file in line behind Goodell. No, I don't want this to go away because of the Patriots; I want this to go away because of my love for American Football.

One of Specter's arguments for his push for an "objective investigation" is that the Eagles beat the Pats by two touchdowns in the regular season and then lost in the Super Bowl. Gee, let's crucify everyone; I mean it's obvious there was cheating involved!
Specter's indignation is laughable at best; the pats didn't even win all the games they recorded.

Please, this is football. In addition, he criticizes the fact that a Pats lawyer was present at the Walsh-Goodell meeting.....hello, deposition anyone? Who cares! The guy can say what he want without fear of reprisal, it's part of the deal.

Objective investigation? Is this investigation focused only on the Pats? Will this investigation look at all NFL teams? Will videotapes from all teams be solicited? I doubt it; so that is not really an "objective investigation". An objective investigation would put this into perspective and look at the league as a whole through all these years.

Owners and coaches, and players alike, need to at this time rank and file behind Goodell. There has been enough damage done already, and an investigation will only further damage the NFL. Matt Walsh and Arlen Specter need to go away. Spygate needs to be closed. Fans need to be able to enjoy the game again without having to hear about this every single day. This has gone on long enough; people have permanent opinions on this, no one's mind is going to change.